“Can you find something for her?” i.e. the power of network

Posted by Concettina Sfienti on March 22, 2015

And it happened again…the same mail two days before deadline for the next funding proposal “Can you write a couple of sentences about gender actions?” And BTW yes we had indeed nine faculty positions over the last three years and we managed hiring nine men!
We keep on organizing seminars, coaching sessions, mentoring programs, women breakfasts, lunches and “eat your colleagues next time please” but it seems that nothing is really working on the long range.

What on the other side seems to work is when the friend colleague calls you (or you call her) to find a solution for a young scientist seeking for a new job.
That’s the power of network! We should actually know how powerful networks can be, since they have been the fundament of the greatest leaps forward in science but it seems to me that we fail at applying its rules in solving other tasks. As last year for the third times something similar happened I began thinking about the possibility of extending this “action” to a wider network.

The first few years after graduation are actually the more difficult ones, for each young scientists, men and women alike. Recent studies shows nevertheless that this challenge has devastating results on the percentage of women in science. These are the years when you begin asking yourself seriously how to balance family and career, the wish for a stable job and the foreseen years of temporary contracts within academia. If one the top of everything else, it also gets complicated to get a position you quit and look for what may seem a better, surely easier future.
Even of a smaller scale, that of my group, I manage in having as many men as women graduating (I am the “how it comes that our only female faculty hires only women“) but I have only one lonely highlander post doc.

Already a couple of years ago, while working out the usual “couple of sentence about gender action” for a graduate school proposal I took the risk of applying for a post doc position for a young scientist in her first years after graduation. The position was meant as a bridge to her future career steps. The review panel found the idea great but unfortunately the position could not be funded due to regulations within the funding agency rules for graduate schools. The bottom line of the review was: don’t give up with the idea and apply for that within other grants.

We found the money for the position and we’ll probably use it for one of the mentioned “phone call of a friend“.

Now let me propose you something: what if you could also call me or I could call you instead?
What if we come together into world-spread network of female faculties or leading scientists and build together a kind of highway for young scientists seeking for their next career steps in particle, astroparticle, nuclear and hadron physics (nothing against the other fields but we need to have a common framework)?
I am looking for new collaborations between universities and research laboratories to foster the exchange of female scientists at the post-doc levels.

Got other ideas for actions which we could undertake together?

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